Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stripped of immunity; 150,000 rally in his support
They've drawn the line in Mexico. Obrador has been striped of immunity and is
no longer qualified to run for president. He was a sure win. His "crime" building
a rode to a hospital without the consent of the federal government. A "crime" that
occurs frequently in Mexico but no one has ever been removed from office for it.
I really had to look for this story (in English).
Mexico City mayor stripped of immunity
Mexican Congress voted Thursday evening to strip away immunity from prosecution, paving the way for removal of Mayor Obrador from office.
By Danna Harman | Staff writer of csmonitor.com
MEXICO CITY —
The mayor of Mexico City, the country's front-runner in next year's presidential elections, now faces criminal charges after the Congress voted Thursday evening to strip away his immunity from prosecution, paving the way for his removal from office.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador defiantly held a major rally in the heart of the nation's capital. The leftist mayor officially launched his bid for the presidency at the event, claiming that his political foes were abusing Mexico's hard-won democratic institutions in order to remove him from the race. His critics counter that the rule of law is a democratic principle that also applies to Mexico's elite.
An estimated 150,000 Lopez Obrador supporters converged on the central square, the Zocalo, Thursday morning, throwing black and yellow confetti, hoisting signs, freeing balloons and chanting. In anticipation of street riots and social unrest some 3,500 policemen patrolled the downtown streets, helicopters hovered overhead, and tens of thousands of people stayed home from work. The stock market, meanwhile, has tumbled, falling 12 percent this week
"I have rarely been as concerned as I am today regarding the course of political events unfolding in Mexico," says New York -based Morgan Stanley senior Latin American economist Gray Newman. Congress' decision, he warns, could well lead to a "prolonged bout of political turmoil."
The political showdown started with a road. A hundred yard stretch of an access road to a hospital to be exact. Lopez Obrador started to build it. A judge ordered construction stopped in 2001, because it ran through private land. The mayor ignored the order. Four years later, the nation is riveted by the resulting confrontation.
Thursday's 360 to 127 vote by lower house of congress is unprecedented: No elected executive has been stripped of immunity before. If prosecuted and convicted, Lopez Obrador could face up to eight years in prison. He has vowed to continue his fight from behind bars if necessary, but according to most interpretations of Mexican law he would be banned from running for president until the case is resolved - a process which could takes years in Mexico's labyrinthine legal system.
"This is insane, pure politicking," argues Martin Delgado Ehizondo, wearing an "Obrador" T-shirt and waving a sign at the rally in the Zocalo. "This is a country where murderers and drug lords go free and they are taking down our man because of a construction project?"
According to several polls here, some 40 percent of Mexicans would vote for him as president, and nearly 80 percent want to see him run.
"The move against Lopez Obrador is puzzling," says Michael Shifter of the InterAmerican Dialogue in Washington. "It is tremendously shortsighted for his political opponents to go after him in this way.... The move is likely to generate greater public pressure against the political establishment, arousing even greater sympathy for Obrador and converting him into a sort of martyr." The attention, says Mr. Shifter, "is a gift for Lopez Obrador -- nothing could have made him happier."
The Bush Administration, adds Shifter, while wary of the general leftward shift in Latin America, is probably not pleased by Congress' moves against Lopez Obrador either. "This is not exactly a recipe for democratic stability," he explains, "which is what the US wants above all else."
The feisty and charismatic mayor, who leads the left leaning Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), has won the adoration of the masses here by speaking out against open markets and free trade as ways to help the poor. He has launched such populist projects as handing out cash to the elderly, poor, and single mothers, while building playgrounds, schools, and new roadways to ease gridlock.
He lives in a small apartment, takes a modest salary and is at work every morning at 6am. Even before he officially announced his bid for the presidency he has been leading opinion polls of presumed candidates by up to 10 points for months.
Lopez Obrador has repeatedly charged that the case against him is witch hunt overseen by the country's other two main political parties: the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and President Fox's conservative National Action Party (PAN). He has heaped particular scorn on Interior Minister Santiago Creel who is expected to head the PAN ticket, saying Mr. Creel is fixated on pushing the mayor aside so as to fulfill his own ambitions. Creel has called the charges "big lies."
Addressing the crowds before Thursday's vote, Lopez Obrador repeatedly spoke out against the actions of his rivals but pleaded with his supporters to avoid violence and not to march on Congress, which was blocked off by giant metal barriers and guarded by hordes of police on horseback. "With this great provocation that is the impeachment, they are betting that we will act irresponsibly, that we will lose our head," Lopez Obrador said. "We cannot fall into that trap."
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